11 Jan 2012

Rwanda leader 'cleared' over 1994 plane crash

8:27 pm on 11 January 2012

A report has appeared to clear Rwanda's president Paul Kagame of orchestrating the 1994 assassination of the country's then-leader Juvenal Habyarimana.

The team - mandated by a French inquiry - visited the scene of the attack to work out the trajectory of the missile which shot down his plane. They included missile specialists, a pilot, and air accident investigators, the BBC reports.

An earlier French inquiry blamed Mr Kagame and his allies. But the new report says the missile that downed the jet must have been fired by elements within Mr Habyarimana's own forces - Hutu extremists who believed that he was too moderate.

The plane crash on 6 April 1994 - in which Mr Habyarimana and Burundi's leader died - triggered the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days.

The killings came to an end when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriot Front rebel movement, headed by Mr Kagame, captured Rwanda's capital, Kigali.

The court on Tuesday concluded that the missile was shot from a distance of up to 1km away from the plane, which was about to land at Kigali airport.

At the time this area was held by the Rwandan army - a unit of elite presidential troops, the BBC reports.

The experts say it would be very difficult for forces loyal to Mr Kagame to be in this area and therefore shoot down the plane.

They concluded that it would have been much easier for Mr Habyarimana's troops or French troops who were in the area to launch the missile.

Rwanda's government welcomed the conclusions of the new report.